ON THE CHANGE OF EEFRANGIBILITY OF LIGHT. 355
the effects of acids and alkalies on a weak solution of a sensitive substance, employing sunlight which had been merely reflected through a small lens, I met with a beam which had every appearance of having been only falsely dispersed, but on viewing it from above through a doubly refracting prism I was surprised at first by finding it unpolarized. It soon occurred to me that the beam must have been due, not to solid motes, but to excessively small bubbles of carbonic acid gas, the existence of which was thus revealed, though they were too small to be seen directly. The light being incident on these bubbles at an angle of about 45°, which is very little less than the angle of total reflexion, the reflected light would be almost perfectly unpolarized*.
172. Water which had been merely boiled in a test tube gave a similar result. The unpolarized beam of falsely dispersed light was of course due in this case to the air which had been held in solution. This shows why long-continued boiling should be necessary, in order to free water from air. It is not that the affinity of water for air is so great as to be only gradually overcome, but that the air, immediately expelled from solution when the temperature rises sufficiently, is still retained in a state of mechanical mixture, forming excessively minute bubbles, the terminal velocity of which is insensible. Accordingly it is not till larger bubbles are formed, by the casual meeting of a number of these small bubbles, that the air rises to the surface and escapes.
173. With respect to the test of true dispersion depending on the change of refrangibility, it has been already remarked that in some cases the change is so slight, that if this test alone were applied, the observer might mistake true dispersion for false. However, it is only in rare cases that there is any danger of being deceived in this manner in the application of the test; but on the other hand, in observing a muddy fluid or a translucent solid by the fourth method, the observer, if not on his guard, might easily be deceived by the effect of scattered light, and be led to mistake false dispersion for true. Thus suppose the medium to be water holding in suspension particles of an insensible water colour, and the small lens to be placed a little beyond the commencement of the violet. Two beams of light would enter the lens, namely, a
See note E.